Vayigash: The Non-Provincial
“Men can be provincial in time, as well as place,” Alfred North Whitehead once remarked. Provinciality is a characteristic of societies and individuals who fail to conduct periodic critiques of their beliefs and who assume, with some degree of smugness, that the knowledge they possess provides the basis for intelligent existence in a world of sudden and unexpected change. Whitehead called this attitude the “fallacy of misplaced concreteness.”
I’m beginning to believe that “provincial” is the newest insult. (Happiness)
Debbie believes that my laughter over Argentina’s insistence on remaining a banana republic is a result of American hegemony and my provinciality. A few of my students believe the same thing, without ever saying so aloud, about my total lack of respect for anything French, especially mustard. (The War of The Mustards)
I used to believe that anyone who did not learn in Yeshivat Ner Israel in Baltimore, or, between 1964-1971, Ner Israel of Toronto, was missing out on the best Torah learning in the world. In my total lack of any provinciality, I was willing to add Rabbi Zweig’s Yeshiva between 74 and 75.
I can take it! Accuse me all you want of being provincial, but don’t ever accuse Jacob.
This great man lived in Egypt for 17 years as if he lived in the Garden in Eden. He carried his world with him. He loved Israel. He yearned for Israel, but he was able to build an Israel around him even in the Land of Goshen. Every place in the world is fertile ground for a Jacob to plant his own Garden. Such is not the behavior of a provincial. Perhaps this is why so many nations turned out for his funeral; Jacob’s approach allowed every place to believe that it had the possibility of becoming another Garden.
When countries, states, or cities, cease to believe in their Garden potential, they suffer reverse provinciality. Jacob was the ultimate non-provincial. He inspired all to believe in their Garden Potential.
Faith, religion, spirituality, or whatever we may call it, should nurture Garden Potential. When one faith threatens others and causes them to lose any sense of their Garden Potential, we know that we are not dealing with Jacob’s type of faith. We are dealing with “Provincials!”